David Plumb


Friday Bastille Day

I drive into the VA clinic
parking lot at 8.43 a.m. Friday
just as WTMI radio announces
Bastille Day, time for the Marseillaise
I whip around the lot four times
squeeze into my parking spot.
and the glory that was France
fills my small car.

I slip the car in Park and pump my arms
singing what little French I know.
I'm marching past the Arc de Triomphe
when in the left corner of my front
windshield I spot a blue pickup
with the words Blue Angel hooked
to the top of the front license plate.

A chiseled seventy plus cowboy
with straw hat and sunglasses sits in the cab
holding a long plastic tube
and I stop marching in my car.

This cowboy shoves the tube down his tracheotomy
with the gauze around the metal
jams the tube past his gone larynx
sucking up phlegm and snot.
His head lurches. He gags.
He wretches. He sucks up
war, cigarettes and time.

The Marseillaise breathes victory all around.
This whole pass in review marches by.
The sun beats on, the cowboy
puts his tube away and wipes his chin.
I turn off the radio.
We turn off our ignitions
and get out to stand

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